It's 1938. My sister holds the skipping rope, frozen in an eternal curve; it is a catenary curve, as the hanging of a chain or the fall of spiderweb, anchor line and gated arch, the golden gate I never live to see.

How do I know these things, caught in this single moment? It's 1938. I would be twelve soon. We're in the street, here in Liverpool; my father's in the dockyard, my mother's in the parlor, the bombs are years away, and nothing ever falls upon this image of a city.

How do I know these things, as a child? It's 1938. The neighbor's children play shove ha'penny, King's head cast against the wall; the coins hang in midair still, our regent frozen in his fall. I never saw the photographer, nor the camera in his hands: pocket Kodak with bellows unfolded, roll film wound and aperture wide.

How can I know these things, when I am only a fall of silver nitrate grains caught on curling emulsion? It's 1938. The shutter rises and falls, and this instant is captured forever. I skip the rope and now I will never trip or fall; my sister's smile is frozen, but there are none to see her face; my mother is out of sight and my father's never coming home.

How could I know these things? It's 1938. Bathed in developer and frozen forever, it's somehow like memory, taking a part of ourselves and holding it fast. I can feel it happen, as we're inspected and put away, growing old in an album, but always eleven, here in the city, skipping rope. The world outside drifts in, filling us with images, of all the things that are ever to be captured, moments that were and times we'll never live to see, while here and now it's 1938; I can feel all those frozen souls in bliss and fear, while here it's 1938.

My sister holds the rope, frozen in an eternal curve. It's always 1938. 

1938 by MICHAEL J WATKINS is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Inspired by the above photograph posted by Little Dragon. Photograph by Marcus J Clark.

1 comment:

  1. The secret lives of photographs. I like it. It makes me wonder if the photo person can soak up things that happened in other photos before 1938 too.